Comatose IT equipment is hiding in plain sight within even the most sophisticated IT organizations. The severs, abandoned by application owners and users but still racked  and running, represent a  double threat in terms of energy waste squandering power at the plug, but also wasting data center facility power and capacity.

“Comatose servers are like weeds in a garden rampant, insidious and abatement is an ongoing responsibility,” said Matt Stansberry, Uptime Institute director of content and publications. “This is why Uptime Institute challenged companies around the globe to help address and solve the problem of comatose servers by participating in the Server Roundup, an initiative to promote IT and Facilities integration and improve IT efficiency.

“The Server Roundup honorees are leading their peers in the industry on the issue of reducing data center resource consumption, and their lessons learned are highly transferable to the industry at large. Uptime Institute is honored to award these companies with the Server Roundup Awards Showcase at Uptime Institute Symposium, May 20-22, 2014 in Santa Clara, CA.”

Barclays removed 9,124 physical servers in 2013 alone. This was the financial organization’s most successful year yet in terms of server decommissioning across its global portfolio.

Barclays is also closely scrutinizing server replacement, thereby ensuring that stranded or low utilization assets are minimized.

“We are seeing reductions in power, cooling, rack space, and network port utilization — all of this while our usable compute footprint goes up, giving us the room to continue to grow the business,” said Paul Nally, director at Barclays. “Servers eliminated in 2013 directly consumed an estimated 2.5 megawatts of power. Left on the wire, our power bill would be approximately US $4.5M higher than it is today. Installed together, these servers would fill up 588 server racks.”

Barclays also saved approximately US $1.3M on legacy hardware maintenance costs, reduced the firm’s carbon footprint, and freed up more than 20,000 network ports and 3,000 SAN ports due to this initiative.

“Increasing reliance on internal virtual private cloud technologies has allowed us to continue to remove physical servers from the environment, resulting in significant savings and reduced environmental impact,” said Ian Penny, global head of distributed technologies at Barclays. “As we deploy our next generation cloud platforms and start to leverage hybrid resource models, we expect this trend to continue.”

Barclays was a Sever Roundup winner in 2012, removing 5,515 obsolete servers, with power savings of 3 megawatts, and US $3.4M annualized savings for power, and a further US $800K savings in hardware maintenance. In two years, Barclays has removed nearly 15,000 servers.

The second winner, Sun Life Financial retired 441 servers from its data center in 2013, replacing 54 of those with newer, more efficient models, while converting 75 to virtual servers. In total, Sun Life’s server roundup is expected to save approximately 115 kW in electricity consumption and an estimated Can $100K in associated energy costs. Recycling the servers has also helped Sun Life reclaim valuable space in their data center.

“After being a finalist in last year’s Server Roundup, Sun Life Financial is honored to step up on to the podium again this year,” said Rocco Alonzi, assistant vice president, Data Centre Governance, Sun Life Financial. “The yearly competition has helped us implement a process that’s sustainable, easily repeatable, and aligns with our overall data center program. The ongoing removal and recycling of equipment helps reduce energy consumption and minimize the environmental impact from our data center. It’s a win-win for us.”

Unfortunately, many organizations are not able to deal with comatose servers for two reasons. The first is risk aversion — in a complex, heterogeneous IT environment, unplugging servers and moving IT services can have an impact on application availability.

The second, and more important issue, is that IT departments are not incentivized to undertake the efforts to improve efficiency.

For several years now, Uptime Institute has tracked which department in a data center organization pays the power bill and 80% of the time it’s the facilities managers or corporate real estate. Many IT teams don’t feel the pain from high energy costs, and don’t reap the rewards from energy savings. There has been little incentive to assess existing IT assets to make operations more efficient. And yet, that is where the next advances in data center efficiency will have to take place, which is why the winners of the Server Roundup have done such exemplary work.

“2013 represented a turning point for Barclays on this initiative,” Nally said. “We now have a central initiative looking at server footprint reduction across every part of the company. Our internal consumers did, of course, want to see cost benefits, and they have. But what they are also seeing is that using a smaller number of servers that are fit for purpose tends to lead to reduced risk and complexity, better uptime, and helps position these teams to get either onto, or ready for, solutions like cloud. The direct cost benefit of this effort sells itself, but I think that the more lasting legacy of our server reduction program at Barclays will be from the benefits of getting off the technologies that are holding us back, and replacing them with things that are more future friendly.”

Uptime Institute also extends hearty congratulations to Server Roundup Finalist, CoreSpace. In 2011, the hosting company acquired a 30,000-sq-ft data center facility in Dallas, Texas. As part of this acquisition, CoreSpace inherited hundreds of legacy “white box” servers and over 230 rack-mounted, single-phase distributed UPS units. After running power/cost calculations CoreSpace quickly realized that it had a strong ROI to install new, more efficient servers and a centralized UPS system.

Corespace decommissioned the entire decentralized UPS system as well as 326 legacy servers, resulting in power savings in excess of US $100K annually.

Additionally, there were savings due to the reduction in cooling costs required to manage the more than 345,000 British Thermal Units (BTUs) produced by the 230 single-phase UPS units and legacy servers. All equipment removed from the infrastructure was recycled.

“Power efficiency is a critical factor in controlling the operational expenses in our data centers,” said Liana Dunlap, president and CEO of CoreSpace. “The implementation of our new centralized UPS system and more power efficient servers has dramatically reduced our overall power usage, significantly cutting our power costs and providing savings we can pass directly to our customers. Also, as a full-service data center and hosting provider, availability is a vital performance measurement for us. Since installing the centralized UPS system, we are able to deliver higher levels of service and support for our customers.”

Since launching this contest in 2011, participants in the Uptime Institute Server Roundup competition have removed 40,000 physical units of obsolete server hardware.

As early as 2006, Uptime Institute Founder Ken Brill identified comatose servers as one of the biggest opportunities for companies to improve overall IT energy efficiency.

Mr. Brill advocated for industry action on this issue, but he often cautioned, “Nobody gets promoted for going around in the data center and unplugging servers.” Mr. Brill meant that data center professionals had no incentive to remove comatose machines and that IT executives lacked insight into the impact that idle IT equipment was having on the cost structures of their organizations, as their departments do not pay the data center power bill.

The corporate disconnect between IT and Facilities Operations continues to challenge the data center industry. Data center managers need to overcome that organizational barrier and take lessons from these leaders in the industry. Congratulations to these companies on their initiative, commitment, and their willingness to share the lessons learned.